Space Symphony Maetel 06 (II of II): LaRela’s Descent
Queen Promethium’s clone finishes her speech and is crushed beneath one of the mechanical spheres that act as building blocks for the mechanization of the planet. The spheres can also act as weapons, and we find Leopard refusing to believe that the real queen might still be alive after all (or maybe he’s just holding to that line officially to uphold rebel morale). Regardless, Promethium’s goal was not to feign her own death, it was to prevent her daughter’s, and she succeeded splendidly. And let me be very clear: although we heard her earlier say something Machiavellian to the effect of “I can’t let her die yet”, I think it’s very tempting to suspect a strong maternal impulse here.
Leopard orders his Space Panzers to bombard the surface of LaMetal with impunity, “as if we were to destroy it”. Meanwhile, Maetel confronts LaRela and tries to get her to reveal her scheme. LaRela’s “test” of Maetel’s mettle is very clever: first she has her face a group of Mechanoids. Maetel hesitates but soon strikes an assailant down. The assailant is revealed to be a flesh-and-blood LaMetalian woman. LaRela isn’t playing with magic tricks here but imparting a valuable lesson, and one we brought up in another post: these Mechanoids that Maetel must confront weren’t just mass-produced in a factory, they used to be flesh-and-blood people, and they are still people even after mechanization although they have left their bodies behind. The hand that reaches up from the ground might represent one of these discarded bodies, which were often laid under ground in cemeteries. Can Maetel cope with this? After seeing her take down replicas of a little girl and then her very own mother (with an old-fashioned sword, a nice antiquarian touch for this simulation of a primordial crime), LaRela’s assessment is affirmative, and if you’ve seen what Maetel is capable of in Galaxy Express 999 then you will have to admit to the former queen’s wisdom.
LaRela’s secret is that there is an inner planet within LaMetal, and she (presumably with the Space Panzers) has prepared a number of arks to evacuate the flesh-and-blood citizens there. The drawback to this plan is immediately obvious: you can’t reckon yourself saved from a bear by retreating deeper within its lair! Either you kill the bear or you bypass it somehow and hurry out of the cave, and Leopard was definitely thinking along these lines when he told his men to smash the planetary surface. But even if the inner planet has a way out, it won’t go anywhere unless it’s able to actually detach itself from the larger planet and head in that direction. LaRela tells Maetel that the machine needed for this is actually built, but to run it they must use a strong source of organic energy. LaRela means to be that fuel.
This wacky way to operate one’s machinery seems to be a staple of LaMetalian technology. Promethium herself, when she was a Millennial Queen, was able to activate the power of her many predecessors through the use of such an organic energy conversion system. Back then, the deed was prompted by LaRela’s machinations. In an ironic twist, here we have it the other way around: LaRela acts similarly in order to stop the machinations of Promethium. There’s also a method to the wackiness, I think. Imagine if our weapons of mass destruction could only be activated by the willing sacrifice of some of our wisest and most venerable citizens! Madmen couldn’t simply push a red button and the world might be a safer place.
LaRela is ready to die. The character design is excellent, as the thick lines under her eyes belie her childish voice and features. We know she wishes to do the right thing, and perhaps to atone. As she descends into her heroic pyre she tells Maetel she will be waiting for her in the future. Future in Japanese is mirai. Any direct translation will obscure the fact that the name of the woman who sacrificed herself centuries earlier to stop LaRela was none other than Mirai. Live-evil subtitles this line as “The future and I are waiting”, a great way of alluding to that other illustrious character from Millennial Queen.
Queen Promethium shows up just in time to order her daughter to stop the machine. Maetel remembers LaRela’s warning not to be deceived, and pulls the lever down. Sure enough, this Promethium proclaims herself the genuine article just like an earlier clone did when visiting Emeraldas. But gradually as Promethium speaks more freely and more passionately I at least start to wonder if she isn’t truly the real thing. Can Maetel really bring her mother down?!